The proposed household income threshold beyond which high-school students must pay for tuition in the planned 12-year education plan was raised to an annual income of NT$1.48 million (US$49,500) from NT$1.14 million, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) announced yesterday after a three-hour meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers.
If the proposal is passed by the legislature, when the 12-year education plan is put into operation in August next year, there will be no tuition fee for first-year students at public or private high schools whose families have an annual income of less than NT$1.48 million.
First-year students from families with a higher annual income will have to pay NT$6,240 a semester at public schools or NT$22,800 at private schools.
Beginning in August next year, students who enroll in vocational high schools will not have to pay tuition, regardless of their families’ income.
The Democratic Progressive Party has demanded that high school be be free for all students, as pledged by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and stated in the draft senior secondary education act (高級中等教育法), which was approved by the Cabinet when Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was premier.
However, the Ma administration decided last week to set qualifications for free tuition.
Defending the policy change, Jiang said he did not consider free tuition for all high-school students a rational use of the limited funds available for education.
Jiang said the government would like to spend the money saved as a result of the new policy on bolstering school and teaching resources in remote areas and improving the quality of teaching in high schools and vocational schools.
Some KMT lawmakers still insisted on free tuition for all at the meeting, but the KMT caucus eventually decided to support the government.
Jiang said the threshold would exclude 14.1 percent of students who will advance to high schools or vocational schools next year from free tuition, but said it would save NT$13.7 billion in the first five years of the program.